Capt continues the winning run, but falters in battle of prestige
When chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh was asked just two days after the announcement of the bypolls to four assembly seats last month whether these could be seen as people’s verdict on the first half of his term, he replied in the negative, saying that three of these were opposition seats.
On Thursday, his party romped home on three — Jalalabad, Phagwara and Mukerian — of them, continuing its winning run in the state since its return to power with a two-thirds majority in March 2017. The CM and other Congress leaders lost no time in claiming the poll outcome to be a victory of their government’s development policies and programmes.
But the ruling party lost the hotly contested Panthic seat of Dakha assembly constituency in which Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Manpreet Singh Ayali trounced Congress’ Sandeep Singh Sandhu, a political aide of the CM, by over 14,000-odd votes despite its whatever-it-takes effort. Amarinder, whose personal prestige was at stake in the constituency, had taken out two roadshows to bolster the prospects of his former political secretary as against one each in the remaining three segments. The seat was earlier held by HS Phoolka, the first-time MLA of the Aam Aam Party (AAP).
The bypoll results have taken the Congress tally to 80 in the 117-strong state assembly. Though conventional wisdom suggests that the ruling parties have a distinct advantage in bypolls, the Congress victories in three segments, particularly its impressive showing in Jalalabad, which was represented by SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal till he got elected to Lok Sabha five months ago, are surely a big fillip for the CM. The lacklustre SAD-BJP and disarray in AAP worked to its advantage.
The Congress had trailed in all four assembly constituencies during the recently held parliamentary polls. Of the three seats the ruling party has won, two, Phagwara and Jalalabad, were held by the BJP and SAD. The electoral history of these segments also did not favour the Congress as it had won these seats only one time in the last five elections.